Discover some of the interesting pieces of philately in the hands of Tony Shields, owner of Shields Stamps in Melbourne, which could enhance your collection.

Moon mail could have been lost in space

The year 1969 was a milestone in exploration as Neil Armstrong, the US Astronaut, became the first human to set foot on a place that was not earth. As he gently put his foot down in the dust on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquillity, he uttered the famous words “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He was soon joined by fellow crewman Buzz Aldrin, while the third member of their Apollo Mission – Michael Collins, stayed on board the spacecraft to keep the systems operating.

The mail was carried without NASA’s authority and about 214 envelopes accompanied them to the moon and back. Some of these covers were offered for general sale to collectors in the early 1990s mainly through auction or in private and institutional collections.

I have never seen one offered for sale since, though certainly a few must have changed hands. In four years time, it will be the 50th anniversary of this great flight and very few people have been to the moon since.

Envelope showing "Royal Silver Jubilee Rocket Experiment" insignia
Royal Silver Jubilee Rocket Experiment insignia on an envelope

Collectors of such space covers are called Astrophilatelists, and are always keen to get their envelopes signed by the astronaut if possible.

Buzz Aldrin is currently touring Australia as part of his ‘An Evening With Buzz Aldrin: Mission to Mars’ show, and I have had items signed by him for sale in my shop.

Australia's rocket mail

Australia had experimental rocket flights which carried mail in the mid-1930s. Most of these flights were conducted in Brisbane between the shore and the shipwreck of the SS Maheno. They're written up in more detail in The Australian Air Mail Catalogue by Nelson Eustis and Tom Frommer.

The rockets were only about two metres long and the experimental flights had mixed success, but fascinated collectors.

Envelope showing Australian Rocket Society 1935" insignia
Australian Rocket Society 1935 insignia on envelope

For collectors who want to add something different to their collection, we are fortunate to have stocks of both rocket mail envelopes (covers) which were carried or prepared for these flights, and loose sheets of the labels which were used on that mail and are often sought by collectors. Prices start from $125 for the covers and the sheets sell for $60 (prices include GST).

Shields Stamps is located at 52 Burgundy St, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084 or online at

This article was produced at the time of publication and will not be updated.

Philatelic Team